WE WERE third overall in the 1981 SEA Games. That was only our third stint in the event after our debut in 1977, the year the tournament changed its name from Peninsular Games to the Southeast (SEA) Games.
The floodgates of memories burst whenever the 1981 SEA Games comes to mind.
I am a sentimental animal.
Reminiscing is second nature to me once you tick off even a bit of history.
It felt good finishing third in the 1981 SEA Games as Thailand and Indonesia, being regular participants in the biennial meet, dominated the region’s version of the Olympic Games.
We weren’t wise yet to the ways of the Games then as we were still considered relatively newcomers, not so keen on the tournament rules that practically favor every country hosting the event.
We failed to take advantage of the wide latitude extended a host country, mainly on the aspect of a host country’s literal control of which disciplines to play.
It’s been that weird a rule that’s been there since the Games’ birth in 1959.
When it debuted as the SEAP (Southeast Asian Peninsular) Games in Bangkok, host Thailand romped away with 35 gold medals to emerge overall champion.
Burma, given a built-in advantage of playing minus powerhouse teams like Indonesia and the Philippines, was second with 11 gold medals—a distant 24 gold medals behind Thailand.
After placing fourth in 1979, we improved one notch higher in 1981 with our 55-gold medal output for third behind champion Indonesia and runner-up Thailand.
But it was also the year that Lydia de Vega would burst into the scene, winning the 1981 Games’ 200-meter gold.
After defending her 200-meter title in 1983, Lydia would grab more global honors by establishing herself as the fastest woman of the SEA Games in 1987, sweeping the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter run.
I wrote about those exploits that remain unequaled to this day, both at Tempo and Manila Bulletin. But that’s another story.
But why is Lydia now coaching Singapore’s national athletics team and not ours? Weird.